How Far is it From 1879?
One objection encountered in conversations with people, having in mind the staggering scale of the state now, many people’s early thoughts about a single tax remedy are that nowhere near enough money would be raised to cover public spending.
We’ve got a lot to learn, but the Wiki entry on Georgism helpfully collated together some studies of land values from the US, UK and Australia, that suggest that the sums raised would be more than sufficient, in these links here: 
We have heard there are eminent economic professors around who profess that rent constitutes 1% of GDP, if even that. Over many, many years, rent has been made to disappear, has become invisible even to those who profess Economics. Mason Gaffney’s Land as a Distinctive Factor of Production in 1994, traces the historical trail of this mystery. Once the labyrinthine taxes are unpicked, the world looks very different.
Gaffney works with a model he calls ATCOR – All Taxes Come Out of Rent.
Fred Harrison, a man that has to be taken very seriously by merit of a track record as an economist that suggests he’s one of a very few who understands what they’re talking about, writes about such obfuscations in The Traumatised Society, and his reckoning is that that rents in a modern economy like Britain’s are about 33% of annual national revenue. 33%.
Dr Robert Andelson had said on the matter:
it is my considered opinion that, by the time the system were in full effect, the revenues produced by collecting land values alone would suffice to meet all legitimate public needs. This may not have been true during the Cold War, with its staggering burden of nuclear defense. But with that burden lifted, and with the need for welfare of all kinds evaporated because of the full employment and other social benefits that the system would naturally engender, and for other reasons, which time precludes my specifying here, I really think that we could dispense with taxes on incomes, improvements, sales, imports, and all the rest. If I am unduly optimistic in this belief, and the public appropriation of land-values were insufficient, this would be no argument against using it as far as it could go. (our emboldening.)
Sadly, where Andelson was unduly optimistic was to imagine that the end of the Cold War was going to much relieve the staggering burden, and perhaps didn’t understand the entrenched and ruthless power of the interests behind the security industries, clearly not many people have done over the years.
This article explains that there’s no peace dividend at all now. By 2011, global military spending had not just returned to Cold War levels but was more than any year since the end of WWII. The SIPRI Yearbook in 2013, gives a global figure of $1,753 billion. It’s impossible to comprehend the madness of this. Imagine having to explain the position to a visitor from another planet, that in the state we’re in we spend this sum on weaponry in the name of security. It’s enormously shameful. This sum would pay for so much, just one year’s worth.
Along with insufficient funds being raised from the single tax, we find people approaching Progress and Poverty have at the front of their mind that it’s a book from 1879, from a bygone age, where conditions were much different. The world has changed a lot since then, apparently, and people’s minds are called to an agricultural world, before the industrial economy. Henry George was very much thinking about cities and advancing technology. The world has changed a lot since 1879 and yet it hasn’t changed at all; the fundamentals never change. Actually, the injustices wrought by the errors of philosophy and policy become yet deeper.
A quick illustration from the modern urban world, which Mark Braund mentioned in The Possibility of Progress, it’s a story from modern London. For whatever reason, around 2004-05 Transport for London commissioned a study of the effect on land values of the extension to the Jubilee Line that they’d built. The total cost of the extension had cost £3.5 billion, paid for by the taxpayers of the whole country. TfL concluded that land values in the immediate vicinity of just two stations along the new line had risen a total of £2.8 billion as a consequence of this investment.
Actually, it was reading an article about something like this, picked up while travelling on an Overground train, that led the first one of us to the Single Taxers and eventually to read Progress and Poverty. Henry George and the Single Tax movement were just mentioned in a couple of sentences in a side panel. So, we’re grateful to TfL for that, or London Transport as was, which was a perfectly good name, but things had to be renamed to make them sound dynamic and exciting and new, just as the Premiership was Division 1 in more honest times, and really still is.
We came across this very good explanation, much better than ours.
There seems to have been some discussion of land value in other transport projects around London. Hong Kong, one of the scattered twinkling Georgist-influenced satellites in the dark sky of world history, claims the best urban transportation system in the world, and funds itself in a just and sensible manner.
In the crowded cities of Hong Kong and Singapore, through the use of long-term leases, public revenue is largely raised through ground rent, keeping all other taxes low; with dynamic results.
In consideration of how far the world is from 1879, a very good piece to read is Lindy Davies’ afterword to The Science of Political Economy.
We’ve drawn heavily in these notes on an address delivered by Dr Robert V Andelson, in Great Barrington on 9 July 1992, at the American Institute for Economic Research.
Just one more quote from Andelson – for us, he sums up so well what we’re thinking about with regards to the 20th century:
There are two things which a government can never do and still be just: The first of these is to take for public purposes what rightfully belongs to private individuals or corporations. The second is to give to private individuals or corporations what rightfully belongs to the public. All wealth that is privately produced rightfully belongs to private individuals or corporations, and for the government to appropriate it is unjust. But land rent is publicly produced, and for the government to give it to private individuals or corporations is equally unjust.
Andelson closed his address with a quote from Viggo Starcke, Danish MP and government minister over half a century ago, during a remarkable three years when Denmark was blessed with this wisdom (more in later notes), and Starcke said:
What I produce is mine. All mine! What you produce is yours. All yours! But that which none of us produced, but which we all lend value to together, belongs by right to all of us in common.
And Andelson said:
This, in a nutshell, is the philosophy of Henry George.